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the professional voice of the Independent Education Union

issue 3|Vol 43|2013

HIGH STAKES TESTING Dealing with violence at school|Self concept for beginning teachers|The rise of parent engagement

Executive Editors John Quessy Deb James Terry Burke Managing Editor Tara de Boehmler Editorial Committee Cathy Hickey Fiona Stutz Gloria Taylor Tara de Boehmler Sue Osborne Journalists Tara de Boehmler Sue Osborne Fiona Stutz Design Chris Ruddle About us IE is a tri-annual journal published by the NSW/ACT, VicTas and Qld/NT Independent Education Unions for members and subscribers. It has a circulation of more than 65,000. IE’s contents do not necessarily reflect the views of the IEU or the editors nor imply endorsement by them. Email NSW: VIC/TAS: QLD/NT: IE online Contributions Contributions and letters from members are welcome. Printing does not reflect endorsement and contributions may be edited at the editor’s discretion. Email Advertising Chris Ruddle (02) 8202 8900 Advertising is carried in IE in order to minimise costs. Advertising does not in any way reflect endorsement of the products or services. Subscriptions IE is available free to members of the IEU, or by subscription. Kayla Skorupon: (02) 8202 8900 Print Post Number 100007506 Printing Print & Mail: (02) 9519 8268 ISSN 1320-9825


curriculum-based Indigenous studies

Art in education


protection an essential principle


Editorial Kaleidoscope Australia wide

Plenty of talk


Poetic licence - John Marsden


news from the states and territories



A leader in curriculum-based


Indigenous studies


High Stakes Testing

Driving us down the wrong road


Teaching + learning

Inquiry into the effectiveness of NAPLAN


Local research finds few positives


Who do you think you are?


The rise and rise of parent engagement

Prac - a work in progress

Professional and industrial

The art of education

P16 P18 P20

The Bella Room


Putting a stop to racism


Leadership Diverse roles Technology Social justice Diary|Letters Talking point Review

The protection of principals an essential principle P24 Workplace bullying: Prevention better than cure P26

P28 National Disability Insurance Scheme explained P30 Doing the rounds P32 Child empowerment key to safety curriculum

How do we tackle drugs in schools? Superheroes tread fine line

P32 P34

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Production of this issue of IE coincided with an election in which education, while hardly taking centre stage, garnered a few notable promises and policies. Questions now surround delivery of the money promised as part of Better Schools (Gonski), with the Coalition Government guaranteeing funding for only four of the six proposed years. The bigger question is whether all that additional new work will still be required, sans much of the new money. NAPLAN was also in politicians’ sights in the lead-up to the election. In his last days as shadow education spokesperson, Christopher Pyne said a Coalition Government would consider banning publication of NAPLAN test results on the My School website. From the results of IEU member surveys, what we know from international experience, and University of Western Sydney research, a genuine effort to take the high stakes element out of NAPLAN could increase the test’s value as a barometer for teachers and families while removing many of the negative impacts. The feature article on high stakes testing, beginning on page 10, details many of these, including stress impacts on students and teachers, teaching to the test, and taking up significant time in an already crowded curriculum. Whatever happens, Melbourne University’s Nicky Dulfer tells IE it is positive to see the conversation happening. There is also plenty of talk around parent/ carer engagement – what it means and how schools can better work in partnership with families. See page 16 for the parents’ perspective plus a range of resources to help these partnerships along. But what happens when relationships between parents and schools sour? According to Dr Philip Riley, the author of a survey report into principal health and wellbeing survey, an increase in attacks by parents on principals could be attributed to increased testing and reporting requirements (page 24). The answers lie in helping parents understand education to be a partnership between home and school and addressing broader issues within the community, Principal Lea Martin tells IE. On the topic of difficult relationships, the theme of this year’s NSW/ACT IEU Support Staff Conference, Enough is Enough: Bully-proof Yourself, was chosen due to demand. With speakers providing tips for preventing and dealing with workplace bullying, and getting on with the job after bullying has occurred, see page 26 for presentation highlights. If you experience bullying or harassment at school or require support, don’t hesitate to contact your IEU Organiser. And for feedback on this issue or to make suggestions for future issues, email 4|independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013

Poetic licence

Plenty of talk

John Marsden is one of Australia’s best known teachers, due to his award winning and popular young adult fiction, including the Tomorrow, When the War Began series. He now runs his own school in Victoria, called Candlebark. But his relationship with schools and teachers has not always been smooth sailing, as he tells IE Journalist Sue Osborne.

My earliest memories of school are at Devonport Primary in Tasmania, and then I went on to the OC class at Eastwood Primary in Sydney. I loved reading and writing at primary school but the teaching in those days was rigid. There wasn’t much encouragement for experimentation. The spelling and punctuation of the stuff I wrote may have been beautiful, but the content was pretty boring. In Grade 5 at Devonport, Mrs Hilliard told us about poetic licence and I took this quite literally, and really wanted to apply for this laminated piece of card that would allow me to write creatively and break the rules. In Grade 4 we had an outstanding teacher. A friend and I asked her for permission to start a class newspaper. Mrs Scott was completely supportive, which was quite unusual for a teacher in those days – to be willing to back students in something outside the guidelines. The Grade Four Chronicle had about three or four editions. Getting published was a very powerful experience and it gave me a real taste for writing and publishing. I met Mrs Scott again when she was about 90 and I asked her how many times she used the cane in her career and she said never. Yet a teacher in the classroom next door caned every student who got less then seven out of 10 in the regular Friday test. Of course, there were some people with learning difficulties who got caned every week. In Year 6 I went to The King’s School, Parramatta. This was not the right school for me. It was very militaristic with all sorts of rules that seemed meaningless to me and I rebelled against them. But our teacher in Year 6 actually laughed at my jokes and made the classroom fun, and he was


The implicit and explicit message was to go into schools and turn them upside down.

like an anchor to me. I couldn’t believe a teacher could find a 12-year-old funny. Towards my last few years at the school, a new principal came in and brought in some teachers with imagination who were more progressive and innovative. The school was starting to change when I left, but it was too late for me. I spent Years 11 and 12 asking for better relationships with teachers, and the stock answer was that if teachers were too friendly, they would lose control of the class. I didn’t believe it to be true then. I thought you’d get better results if you shared a few jokes with your class. I left school feeling alienated and disillusioned and drifted through 30 casual jobs, as well as stopping and starting several university degrees. I had a vague idea of becoming a teacher and one day I was reading the paper and saw an ad for a mid-year intake at Bathurst. I thought “this is my last chance, I should give it a shot”. On my first day there I thought “this is what I’ve been looking for”. It was a fantastic course because they taught us to be subversive. The implicit and explicit message was to go into schools and turn them upside down, because there’d been too much bad teaching for too long. I’d been fiddling with writing for a while since leaving school but only finished one manuscript, which I knew was pretty bad. After teaching for five years I had a group of Year 9s and I was concerned

they were not reading enough. I went to the library to choose books for them but had great difficulty because there was nothing for the culture of the 1980s. No one was writing for teenagers then. I thought it couldn’t be too difficult to write a book for teenagers. The decision to write for teenagers was very liberating. I also decided not to edit as I wrote, but just to let my pen flow. That was also very liberating. My first book So Much to Tell You was published in 1987. I had a long-held ambition to run my own school but the forces of bureaucracy and poverty had stopped me. Finally, surprisingly, I found myself in a position where I could afford to do it and bought my own land and building and gave myself a year to set it up. The school is in its eighth year. It’s not a reaction against any school I have attended as it is against any school I’ve visited where there’s a poor relationship between staff and students. I found teachers that had lived adventurous lives, hitchhiked across Russia, written symphonies, sailed the seven seas. I wanted teachers with stories to tell and some perspective. I found a beautiful setting: surrounding kids with beauty is not a bad idea. We don’t follow any rigid philosophy. It’s just a commonsense approach to schooling. I expect Candlebark will keep growing, until it starts to feel too big.

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National Pregnancy discrimination inquiry Earlier this year former Prime Minister Julia Gillard put the issue of gender equality back on the agenda by asking the Human Rights Commission to look into workplace discrimination against women who have children. Unions called for this inquiry because too many women were experiencing discrimination in the form of job loss, missed opportunity for promotion and training and even demotion when they return to work. The findings of the ACTU are backed up by the Australian Bureau of Statistics data which shows that almost one third of working women with a child under two left the workforce permanently while pregnant or after having a child. The Government has asked Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, to oversee an inquiry to measure how often the discrimination is happening, what is driving it and what are the consequences of it.

Following a prevalence survey and further consultations, the Commission will prepare a final report with recommendations by May 2014. The most common issues affecting IEU women members with children appear to relate to a return to work part-time until a child is school age. While the provision is contained in many collective agreements, what often happens in workplaces requires Union action. The IEU continues to bargain strongly for the inclusion of, ‘right to request’ in collective agreements where an employer can only refuse the request on reasonable grounds and members can appeal an unreasonable refusal under the dispute resolution procedure. The ACTU secured such a right to request in awards as one of the outcomes from the 2005 Family Provisions test case. Notably, this version did have an appropriate dispute resolution procedure. This provision, however,

was stripped away when the Coalition government introduced its WorkChoices legislation. IEU members in workplaces without a collective agreement do have the right to request flexible work arrangements under the Fair Work Act and the Equal Opportunity Act (Victoria). The final report from the Human Rights Commission will address the prevalence of discrimination, adequacy of existing laws, policies, procedures and practices and best practice approaches, and the focus for future activities to address matters of concern that have arisen during the process. The IEU regularly represents members who have been refused a return to part-time work and other issues while on parental leave. For IEU members who have workplace issues related to their pregnancy or in seeking to return to work part-time from parental leave, contact the Union.

NSW Induction support should be mandated NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has made a significant announcement in relation to inducting new teachers into the profession. From 2014 the State Government will provide two hours per week release time to permanent teachers in their first year and an additional one hour in their second. Mentors will also attract an hour per week of time. The mandate (which the IEU believes should be part of a school’s registration requirements) would ensure the independent schools sector moves from a position of self regulation, which often

results in teachers not being provided with support, to a system of clear government expectation. IEU members will participate in mentoring where reasonable support is provided by employers. The identification of best practice should be extended to all workplaces. The mandating of induction would ensure IEU members are provided with tangible support in their beginning years. It is appropriate to quote from the Parramatta Work Practices Agreement: “The allocation is 18 days per beginning teacher, of which 12 days are for

release of the teacher and six days for a supervision/mentor support from within preschool. This allocation must be used to assist the beginning teacher by providing extra release time for planning, programming and consultation and to release other staff members for the specific purpose of assisting the beginning teacher.” Mandatory induction as a central mechanism to attract and retain teachers will prove that the Government’s blueprint pertains to teachers in all sectors.

Northern Territory Our place in the world The IEUA-QNT biennial Professional Issues Conference in Darwin had the theme Managing the Complexities and Demands on the Modern Educator, and served as an excellent opportunity for members to interact, share ideas, network and seek a better understanding of those issues that confront teachers, with a special focus on the context in the Northern Territory. Keynote speakers included Professor Peter Kell, Andrew Knott and Maree Garrigan. Peter Kell is a specialist in the internationalisation of education. He

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spoke to the conference about how Australia is placed internationally in regards to standardised testing such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and the impacts of these measurements are having on pedagogy and the curriculum, to the detriment of students. Andrew Knott is Special Counsel with education law specialists TressCox Lawyers and he gave the conference practical advice on a range of legal issues including duty of care, social

networking, bullying and harassment. Director of the Northern Territory Teacher Registration Board Maree Garrigan has 30 years of experience working in NT education. She explained the impact of the National Professional Standards for Teachers and their integration into the NT teacher registration process. Feedback from members was overwhelmingly positive pointing to both the practical nature of the presentations and the insights into better educational practice.

Australia wide

Queensland Growth in Anglican sector The IEUA-QNT Growth Team has been running a campaign to build strength within the Anglican sector ahead of collective agreement negotiations in 2014. Lead Organiser Nick Holliday says the focus of the campaign was not solely recruitment, but increasing activism. “The campaign gives activists the tools they required to have the one-on-one conversations with their colleagues that are necessary to uncover and address

the professional issues that matter to them,” Nick says. “We have already obtained a significant growth in the Anglican sector. This has been achieved not through organiser contact, but predominantly through member-activists talking with their colleagues — which is a great outcome.” Nick said that the campaign had helped members identify with the collective bargaining process and let

members know that their involvement was the key to eventual outcome. “We have expanded the chapter executives and the involvement of members at the grassroots level, while assisting them to develop and implement their own plans to achieve the outcomes they desire from the upcoming negotiations.”

South Australia New child protection check In April Education Minister Jennifer Rankine announced teachers would undergo child protection checks in addition to the national criminal history record check. This was in response to some of the recommendations contained in former Supreme Court Judge Bruce Debelle’s report into the Department of Education’s handling of an assault case involving a student and an after school carer in 2010. A working group has been established to provide advice to the Minister on ways the Teachers Registration Board (TRB) will introduce child protection information and prescribed offences into the assessment for teachers. IEU(SA) is represented on that group.

The working group is investigating options and will recommend an appropriate model to the Minister next year for implementing enhanced screening for teachers. This may include, but is not limited to: 1. a review of the current assessment criteria for teacher registration in the context of receiving child protection information contained in Families SA records. 2. a review of the current standards for the assessment of criminal history information issued under s8A(j) of the Children’s Protection Act 1993. 3. recommending a mechanism for the inclusion of child protection

(CP) information into the assessment of teachers seeking registration or re registration, including: a. analysis of the CP information held by Families SA b. development of criteria to identify CP information for use by the TRB – including the quality, reliability and probative value of this information c. identifying the CP information that is suitable for TRB use, and d. identifying a practical solution for the TRB to access CP information including consent, confidentiality, technical matters and cost. 4. the introduction of prescribed offences, and 5. student teachers.

Victoria Tools to tackle violence Tackling an increasing number of incidents of violence by students and parents/guardians in schools is a growing focus of unions’ work with members. The IEU VicTas has been working more and more with principals and other school staff members to develop and implement appropriate violent behaviour risk assessment and management tools and critical incident protocols, including school re-entry procedures. These tools

are assisting schools to better deal with behaviours, using an OHS approach. Violence at work is unacceptable. Every worker and student in a school has a right to work and learn in an environment that is free from violence and threats of violence. Preventing violence in schools requires a long-term approach, including the identification of hazards (specifically behavioural), assessment of those risks, the application

of risk management controls and the monitoring of their effectiveness. School employers have obligations under OHS legislation and duty of care to undertake measures to ensure safe workplaces. Schools have generally focussed on developing individual learning or education plans to essentially deal with violent and aggressive behaviours. What is key is that these plans work with effective risk management plans.

Tasmania Data collection leading to better outcomes

One-third of Tasmanian schools have been involved in the first national collection of data on students with a disability. The Federal Government has partly funded it so all Australian schools can participate. Most systems, including the Tasmanian Catholic education system, have added additional funds to ensure that sufficient time is available for staff to collect the data and collate the results. This project has been positively accepted by principals and special

learning needs coordinators, who are being provided with a briefing and a package of information. In 2014, additional schools will be involved and all schools will have to report on their data on students with a disability in the August census in 2015.

• has the school team determined the broad category of disability: supplementary, substantial or extensive? • has the school identified reasonable adjustments required to meet the student’s needs?

The process map for the data collection outlines some key points: • does the student meet the definition of ‘disability’ under the DDA 1992?

The data should lead to a more student-centred appraisal of need. This will be better for students, their families and school staff. independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013|7

Brisbane centre a leader in curriculumbased Indigenous studies The study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures has been embedded as one of the “cross-curriculum priorities” — along with Asian Studies and Sustainability — within the Foundation to Year 10 curriculum. Yet, teaching about Indigenous culture can be confronting for non-Indigenous teachers, especially as ATSI studies have been so absent from study for previous generations. IE Journalist Michael Oliver visited the Ngutana-Lui centre in Brisbane, which is taking an innovative approach to curriculum-based ATSI studies.

“Ewww. It’s moving in my hand!” I am standing in a circle with some Year 9 students from Mansfield State High who are coming to grips, literally, with a witchetty grub that one lucky kid is about to eat. “Oh my god, its head looks like a cockroach!” I have come to partake in a few classes at the Ngutana-Lui centre in Inala, in Brisbane’s east. First up is native food and by 10:45am the students are already holding their first piece of bush tucker. Run by Brisbane Catholic Education, Ngutana-Lui means ‘To Teach’, which it has done since 1989. The aims of the centre are to promote Reconciliation through education and to develop and enhance cultural knowledge, understanding and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Although it operates within a Catholic teaching framework, the centre also opens its doors to teach ATSI culture and histories to all students — including the students from Mansifeld State High with whom I am learning today. As ATSI culture and histories has now become an “embedded priority” within the National Curriculum, the importance of the work carried out by this one-of-a-kind centre is only going to increase. My host for today’s visit is Centre Tutor and IEUA-QNT Member Lisa Powell. She leads me on a tour of the ground’s rainforest while Robert, another tutor at the centre, lights the fire for the impatient students and their captive native food. The rainforest creates a world in itself, and Lisa tells me how all the plants and the entire forest was created over the last 24 years specifically for teaching students about Indigenous culture, history and plant knowledge. “My role is putting across the Indigenous women’s side of culture and that involves talking about all the plants in this forest and how they are used. For instance, for the preps through to 3s and 4s we do a “chemist shop”. We take them for a walk around this bush and discuss the different plants and the uses of different products in the bush that we can compare to what we get in the chemist shop today.

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Lisa reaches up and grabs the leaves of a nearby plant. “For instance, the melaleuca. You can use that instead of Vick’s Vapour Rub.“ There is also a strong social justice aspect to the full-day course. When it gets to the ‘histories’ aspect of the lessons, Lisa says there is no point sugar-coating anything. “I think it is important that they learn about what happened to us as a people and how our culture suffered. They especially need to know that for a long time everything that I am teaching them — about the plants, and the animals and the culture — was banned and we weren’t even allowed to talk to each other about these things. “I learned about my own culture through my grandmother and my great uncle who defied the laws to do that. They could have been whipped and gaoled if white people found out they were teaching us, or speaking to us in our language or anything like that. I am very fortunate.” Lisa seems slightly wistful when she starts talking about the relatives who gave her this knowledge and her pride in her culture. Talking to Lisa makes it clear to me that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies are not some rarefied enquiry into an ancient and dead culture. The culture is ancient, but alive. It is a culture that has survived deliberate attempts to exterminate it and now continues to exist through its survivors— people for whom their culture defines their very being. Lisa’s knowledge of the plants, of the bush, of the ceremonies and the protocols that give her identity, and the family that gave her this knowledge, is something that cannot be replicated by a simple course. Acknowledging this is the first step for educators wanting to approach this subject from the right angle. So how should non-Indigenous teachers go about presenting this material to students? “The [non-Indigenous] teachers who are teaching this stuff aren’t quite sure of what they can teach and what they can’t teach. “Many non-Indigenous teachers can be quite intimidated when they start teaching this stuff — which is fine. That is why they can come here, or we can visit the schools, and

Towards reconciliation

we can teach the kids, and we can teach the teachers too. Many teachers are very excited to be learning this stuff, and it will get easier in the years to come. “We also need more Indigenous teachers, but sometimes being Indigenous isn’t necessarily enough. I was very lucky, but many Indigenous people still don’t know their culture.” I look across to the eight Indigenous kids standing around the fire, listening intently to the tutor Robert and ask Lisa whether centres

like Ngutana-Lui are helping Indigenous people reclaim their identity. “Oh yeah. When I do classes with kids I see that generation has embraced it more, and are out there looking for answers to their culture. I am so fortunate that my kids are able to pass their culture down to their kids. We just need to spread it around more if we can.” If you would like to find out more about Ngutana-Lui visit independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013|9


Driving us down the wrong road? Is the continual measuring of students’ core skills in high-stakes testing regimes such as NAPLAN and PISA really the best way to improve the learning outcomes for Australian students? IEU VicTas Education and Policy Officer Cathy Hickey looks at the negative picture emerging from this powerful policy driver.

Over the last few years Australian education academics, principals, teachers and parents have raised serious concerns over the growing political emphasis on high stakes testing as a key tool in education reform. Australian voices are joining the host of international researchers who are questioning not only the legitimacy of the use of testing as a key policy driver, but also the accuracy of these tests. There are a number of problems with testing having significant influence over education policy and practice. As the old adage goes, “just continuing to weigh the pig doesn’t make it any fatter”. One key problem with

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high-stakes testing is that they are wrongly “assumed” to measure what it means to be a quality school, a quality teacher, and indeed what the goals of a quality education should be. Can anyone seriously believe that these important aspects are so easily measured in a 120-minute test? While literacy and numeracy are cornerstone skills to learning, an overemphasis on testing regimes will not result in the delivery of broad curriculum focus, or opportunities for students to engage deeply, think critically and creatively. International studies in England and the US have shown that if testing and test performance is the driver, it begins to


distort and narrow the broader educational objectives and learning outcomes and have significant effects on classroom practice, as well as student wellbeing. International experience Politicians on England, for example, continue to base their case for sweeping reforms on the fact their country’s PISA rankings have ‘plummeted’. The irony is of course that continued testing as a driver of improvement clearly isn’t working. England’s ‘sliding’ performance is being put under the microscope by a number of education experts who are revealing inherent problems in the testing, reporting and interpretation of data. In 2011 the analysis by a London University Professor of Economy and Social Statistics, Dr John Jerrim, concluded that England’s changing position in international performance tables neither supported nor refuted policy makers’ calls for reform. At the time, he examined the contrasting findings in England’s Maths performance identified by the two different international tests, PISA and TIMSS, one indicating a drop in performance and the other a rise. A number of other internationally renowned academics have been raising concerns about PISA: the test construction, methodological challenges and questions about whether different countries’ education systems are correctly ranked by PISA in the nominated skill areas. For example, the test questions used vary between students and between countries participating in the same PISA assessment. Improvements are continually being called for. Harvey Goldstein, Professor of Social Statistics of Bristol University, has been recommending for years to the OECD that it should try to incorporate longitudinal data, which to date it has not done. Testing isn’t leading to improvement Back in Australia, the same issues are emerging. Continued NAPLAN testing is not

resulting in any significant improvements in the results of the tests. Greg Thompson, Senior Lecturer at Murdoch University noted earlier this year that since 2008, improvement across Australia in NAPLAN can only be seen in Year 3 Reading, Year 5 Reading and Year 5 Numeracy. That being said, he says there have been no statistically significant improvements in 17 of the 20 categories since NAPLAN began. Most categories have stayed fairly static. Why is this happening? Thompson and other educational experts postulate that it is most likely because of the unintended classroom consequences of standardised testing like NAPLAN, that is, that it narrows curriculum, is not inclusive of student’s needs, increases anxiety and requires teachers to teach to the test. Thompson’s research in Western Australia and South Australia has shown that NAPLAN has indeed led to a narrowing of the curriculum focus, a ‘teach to the test’ mentality and a return to teachercentred pedagogies that may lower student engagement. Other reasons for the concern about the over reliance on the tests come from academics such as statistician Margaret Wu who has written papers on the significant margins of error associated with pinpointing student ability through the tests. Where to from here? If Australian governments really want to lift student educational achievement to the top tier performance levels of countries such as Finland, perhaps like Finland we need to stop using numeracy and literacy testing in high stakes ways. In addition, as many such as Thompson suggest, we need to use standardised tests more as data collections harnessed to improve learning diagnostically, and not see the snapshot performance in the test as the end product.

Inquiry into the effectiveness of NAPLAN Earlier this year an Independent Education Union of Australia survey of teacher and principal members provided extensive detail for the Union’s submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Effectiveness of NAPLAN. The IEU repeated its 2010 survey using the same questions. Of concern, the results indicated increases in the negative impact on students and staff, as well as continuing concern over the inaccurate representation of schools on the My School website. The results also showed a clear increase in the time being spent in ‘test preparation’ (eg six hours by Year 9 teachers in 2010, compared with 15 in 2013, as well as a dramatic decrease in the belief that NAPLAN results are a useful diagnostic tool (eg 58% of Yr 9 teachers in 2010 compared with 29% in 2013).

A significant number of teachers said the NAPLAN regime should be abolished and many said the delay between taking of the tests and getting the results provided little time to use information diagnostically. Respondents were concerned that the tests did not measure the intended benchmarks and that other classroom assessments provided a more accurate measure of the student’s literacy and numeracy level. A significant number commented: on the lack of linkage between the tests and what is happening in the classroom at that time; that the tests were inappropriate for Year 3 students given their level of maturation; and that insufficient time was allocated in some test items for students to respond. See the IEUA’s full submission at independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013|11

High stakes testing

Local research finds few positives Students vomiting with anxiety, teachers teaching to the test, a skewing of the importance of some subjects over others and broad confusion. These are just a few of the impacts of NAPLAN as reported by teachers, Melbourne University’s Nicky Dulfer tells IE Journalist Tara de Boehmler.

When the University of Western Sydney’s Whitlam Institute last year commissioned a comprehensive international literature review of high stakes testing it raised serious concerns regarding the impact of this form of testing on student health and wellbeing, learning, teaching and curriculum. It also highlighted the importance of measuring the impact of Australia’s own high-stakes test, NAPLAN. What resulted was The Experience of Education: The impacts of high stakes testing on school students and their families, a report based on the perspectives and experiences of around 8,300 Australian teachers. Co-author Nicky Dulfer says the teachers reported “a high level of confusion around what the purpose of high stakes testing is” and a range of negative consequences. “Teachers were asked to identify a number of things they thought it might be and certainly the two areas that rated highest was that they viewed it as a school ranking tool and a policing tool.” Given the results were widely published and compared, they also expressed a high level of concern about the potential impact negative media reports could have on school enrolments. “Parents could start to think the school was ‘a bad school’ and then its ability to attract and retain students could become damaged, as could staff morale at the school,” Nicky says “Given that education has been run very much in a market place economy kind of way, you can see why schools might be concerned.”

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Such pressure was bound to have an impact on the teaching of curriculum and teaching approaches, but the extent revealed by the research was extreme. “More than 80% of the teachers said NAPLAN preparation takes up significant time in an already crowded curriculum, and just under 80% said they definitely taught to the test now. “Most teachers reported they had had spent some time practising NAPLAN prior to the testing,” Nicky says. “Now, when it’s just two weeks prior to the test, it is to be expected. You want your students to be able to look at a test and say ‘I know how this works and I understand what I have to do’. However there was also a huge frequency of practice in the five months prior, with 39% of teachers reporting that they had students practicing weekly in the five months prior to the test, and 7% did daily practice.” In terms of the impact across the curriculum, just under 80% felt it had reduced the importance of other areas not subject to the test. “Many commented that Maths and English were seen as more important and 69% said NAPLAN reduced the time taken for subjects not specifically tested, so you end up with certain subjects within the curriculum being marginalised. “All of those things have had a strong impact.” Teachers reported the tests also had a strong stress-inducing impact on students. “We asked about health and wellbeing and asked teachers to only indicate students who had directly reported any of the issues to them.


“Just over 80% of teachers said students had reported feeling stressed, and 30% said more than 10 students in their class reported feeling stressed. “There were also students that reported feeling sick or freezing before the test. “Where students are concerned that they are too dumb because they don’t do well in a high stakes test their self efficacy can begin to suffer and then their learning can suffer because of that.” Nicky says the research is not saying every student feels this way. “There are lots of students that go through the NAPLAN process with very little stress, but there is a very significant minority who are struggling.

“We understand that stress exists in education – and in some cases stress pushes people to achieve their best – but too much stress has a detrimental effect. So this is a concern.” Nicky says it is positive that there is now a conversation happening about NAPLAN. With further research planned, plus a new Federal Government that has promised to review the publication of NAPLAN data, it’s unlikely the conversation will end any time soon. Reference Dulfer, Polesel and Rice (November 2012) The Experience of Education: the impacts of high stakes testing on school students and their families, an educator’s perspective. Whitlam Institute: University of Western Sydney.

Parents: A ‘price too high to pay’ The NSW Parents Council is outspoken in its criticism of the ‘high stakes element’ of NAPLAN results. In its submission to the Senate inquiry, the Council recommends making results only available to schools, teachers and parents. NSW Parents Council Stephen Grieve says the Council is in favour of external testing “because clearly it’s a tremendous measure” if results are provided only to these parties. “We are very much in favour of independent testing as it provides a vital benchmark for teachers and for parents to know where they stand – that’s terrific.

“But once this moves into the high stakes environment – once results are published and put into the public domain and become a plaything for the media and the politicians – they cause tremendous levels of harm. To be subjecting our children and our teachers to the sorts of pressures that all emanate from these exercises is unacceptable. “Transparency is a good thing but if it comes at a serious cost to health and wellbeing and brings harm to our children and is resulting in the perversion of our school curriculum and teaching standards, then I’m sorry but it is just too high a price to pay.”

NSW Parents Council recommendations 1. that NAPLAN has the “high stakes” element of its regime removed so that the test results be only made available to schools, teachers and parents to enable it to revert from being a negative to a positive force in the lives and education of all our children 2. that a major study be initiated so that NAPLAN can be totally recast, to more broadly test the totality of the curriculum, in a manner that will produce genuine and timely diagnostic assistance to teachers and parents 3. that a major study be initiated, for the benefit of parents, to identify a different and non-toxic testing mechanism to provide parents with a guide as to the academic performance of primary schools, and 4. that the various systems of Year 12 testing that occurs in all states and territories be deemed an appropriate guide to parents within their state or territory wishing to assess the academic performance of secondary schools. independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013|13

Who do you think you are? Self-concept and beginning teachers Teacher education and first experiences in schools are important contributors to the formation of a teacher’s productive and positive professional identity. School principals and supervising teachers play an important role in supporting beginning teachers as they develop their self-concept as effective teachers, write Chris Perry and Ian Ball of Deakin University.

There is a positive relationship between self-concept and teacher efficacy (beliefs teachers have about their teaching capabilities). Effective teachers are those who have a positive professional selfconcept. These teachers are less likely to suffer from stress and teacher burn-out. Self-concept is the collection of beliefs people have about themselves. Descriptively, self-concept includes aspects such as traits of character, values, social roles, interests, physical characteristics and personal history. Our self-concept is multidimensional, a composite of attitudes, feelings and ideas that we use to attempt to explain who we are to ourself and others. Our self-concept is learned (that is, developed through our experiences), organised (we hold numerous views of our self), and dynamic (self perceptions can vary from one situation to another and from one phase of life to another). Self concept develops through constant self-evaluations throughout the experiences we have. We gauge the verbal and non-verbal reactions of others, especially significant others, to make judgements about how we are doing. This process has been described as a ‘looking glass’, a mirror. As Cooley poetically noted, “each to each a looking glass, reflects the other that doth pass”. We imagine how we appear to others and at the same time interpret others’ reactions to us and so develop beliefs about who we are. Thus ‘self’ is socially constructed. It is a social product developed through experience. Through social communication we learn to monitor our actions and to assume the role of others. This process is evident as we develop in our professional lives. How we perceive our professional selves will affect our view of ourself and the way we carry out our professional role. As teachers, our selfconcept, that is how we see ourself as a teacher, affects the way we teach and the way we carry out our role as teachers.

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Hamachek says: “consciously, we teach what we know; unconsciously, we teach who we are”. As people begin their professional lives as teachers, how do they perceive themselves? When they reflect on such questions as ‘who am I’, what are the beliefs they have about themselves? Are they beginning to see themselves as teachers? Who were our study group? We asked a group of beginning teachers in their first year of a university teacher education course to respond to the question ‘Who am I?’ with six items that they thought best described themself. We collected a total of 290 responses. This group of beginning teachers, as part of their program, had already had five days observational experience in schools. We wanted to find out what categories these beginning teachers used to describe themselves, and also to see if there were any indications that they were beginning to draw on the professional role of a teacher as an aspect of their own self-concept. As we reviewed the responses, common themes emerged resulting in 22 identifiable categories: body image, background experiences, general role, emotional states, sociability etc. Further review of these categories suggested three broad groupings. One group contained aspects linked to mental structures which we grouped as being in the cognitive domain. A second group were concerned with attitudes, emotional states and like and dislikes. These appeared to represent the affective domain. The remaining categories concerned physical aspects and use of the body in sports etc. This was interpreted as reflecting the psychomotor domain. Thus Bloom’s three domains of learning, cognitive, affective and psychomotor, seemed to be appropriate to the definition of self-concept.

Teaching and learning

SELF-CONCEPT cognitive domain 23%

The first experiences they will have as teachers in classrooms will be vital to the development of their selfconcept as a professional teacher.

affective domain 45%

psycho-motor domain 32%

experiences and background (7%) eg served in the army, migrant. nationality, name etc 5%

general role (8%) eg mother, a brother, wife, oldest in family

emotional states (22%) eg, lazy, easy-going, talkative

social states (9%) eg interested in people

body image (16%) eg tall, brown hair, lightly built

Only 9 responses (3%) mentioned teacher role eg potential teacher, interested in children, interested in a career with kids

specific likes/dislikes (4%) eg love music, animals

expression of desirable states (10%) eg reliable, dependable

physical interests (10%) eg love sports, outdoor person, tennis

age 4%, gender 2%.

What it means These beginning teachers hold an organised view of themselves. Their experiences have led them to form aspects of their self-concept that reflect cognitive learning (mother, mature-aged student, speak two languages), affective learning (talkative, easy-going, love to sleep in) and psychomotor learning (love sports, 19 years old, female). However, very few of these teachers have established a professional concept of themselves. Only 3% referred to an emerging teacher role, eg love children and enjoy being with them, enjoy working with intellectually disabled children, interested in small children, interested in a career with kids. As a group, they have not yet had the experiences or been in situations where they have begun to include a view of themselves as teachers. The environment they experience and the contacts they will have in schools during their university education and the first experiences they will have as teachers in classrooms will be vital to the development of their self-concept as a professional teacher. To see themselves as teachers and as successful teachers, the next few years’ experiences are significant. During the

following years at university, their training experiences in schools and their early years as teachers, they will need to be involved in positive teaching experiences. They will need modelling from successful teachers, training and instruction in effective teaching and many opportunities to reflect on themselves as developing teachers. Positive experiences in these early years as a teacher will mean they will develop a positive professional self-concept. These will be the teachers who are less stressed, more productive and more effective in their teaching practice. References Cooley C 1902, Human Nature and the Social Order, Scribner’s: NY. Hamachek D 1999, p209, Effective teachers: What they do, how they do it, and the importance of self-knowledge. In R. P. Lipka, & T. M. Brinthaupt (Eds.), The role of self in teacher development, State University of New York Press: NY. Dr Chris Perry and Ian Ball are Honorary Fellows at Deakin University. Their research, writing and work with teachers focuses on the understanding of individual differences. independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013|15

The rise and rise of parent engagement Schools are entering a new era in parent and carer engagement and the benefits for students are likely to be profound, NSW Parents’ Council’s Rowena Stulajter and the Council of Catholic School Parents’ Danielle Cronin tell IE Journalist Tara de Boehmler.

Just how much of an impact does a student’s home have on their academic achievement? While some suggest the relative influence is as high as 60% to 80%, crediting the remaining 20% to 40% to schools, what the research does agree on is that the influence of parental engagement is significant. According to a report by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth for the Family School and Community Partnerships Bureau, Parental Engagement in Learning and Schooling: Lessons from research, the benefits of parental engagement include: • higher grades and test scores • enrolment in higher-level programs and advanced classes • higher successful completion of classes • lower drop-out rates • higher graduation rates • a greater likelihood of commencing post-secondary education • more regular school attendance • better social skills • improved behaviour • better adaptation to school • increased social capital • a greater sense of personal competence and efficacy for learning • greater engagement in school work, and • a stronger belief in the importance of education. The report also acknowledges the importance of strong engagement from preschool through to the end of high school. According to Danielle, perceptions of parent/carer engagement have reached a “new frontier”. “’On the one hand we have the traditional understanding of how parents can be involved in the life of the school, such as through P&Cs, P&Fs, school boards, the canteen, the library - these are all ways schools invite parents to participate as helpers, fundraisers, observers and audience members. Then I would make a qualitative distinction between this sort of involvement and parental engagement with learning and wellbeing. Engagement is more about the relationship that teachers have with parents,

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in order to unlock the learning so parents can better support their children’s wellbeing and learning at school and at home. It is about teachers making the learning visible for parents so they know what it looks like, feels like and sounds like in schools. “It’s about shifting the mindset of measuring engagement in terms of how many parents turned up to an event to looking at the quality of the relationship we are having with parents around what the kids are learning, their wellbeing, their hopes and aspirations. “While schools can effectively engage parents without them having to step foot on school grounds, traditional ‘involvement’ activities can also be a useful vehicle.” With parent/carer engagement now linked to the National Teaching Standards, part of the challenge is to ensure engagement activities are well focussed, appropriately funded and with sufficient resources. NSW parent bodies have been working with the Australian Catholic University’s Professor Sue Saltmash to develop a range of pre-service and professional development modules on engaging with parents, carers and families within the school. The Council of Catholic School Parents have also created a web portal, Partners4Learning, which unpacks the partnership framework and provides research, case studies and a bank of resources related to parent/ teacher interviews, NAPLAN and a range of partnership topics. “For us it’s about making sure we have ‘just in time’ resources that can support teachers when they need them,” Danielle says. “But we also want to send the message that it’s not about more work for teachers. It’s just about doing what you do a bit differently. In terms of the policy agenda, parental engagement is now a core element of teacher quality, of meeting student need, of closing the achievement gap and enhancing local decision making. It is now recognised as an essential piece of the education landscape. Our resources are available to help schools build this into their daily work and broader school planning.” Rowena says parent/carer engagement should be embedded in schools’ policies and procedures. “It’s about empowering parents to walk

Teaching and learning

It is about teachers making the learning visible for parents so they know what it looks like, feels like and sounds like in schools.

that journey with the teacher and with the school community as a whole so they are not only involved in running the canteen and the clothing pool or assisting at the athletics carnival. All of that is important, but it’s really about engaging on a deeper level around what’s actually happening – the values and responsibilities – in the classroom.” While Rowena encourages schools to be “flexible and creative” in tailoring engagement methods to suit the diversity of the school community, she says boundaries are important. “Teachers have enough to do. They have an enormous amount to get through every day with their classes and we don’t want to add more to their day. But most schools do have a parent information session once a term and it’s just about explaining ‘this is what we’re going to be doing, you might see this, this is what it means, and these are the outcomes’. I think once parents have this information most of them are happy. They think it’s great.” Strategies are fleshed out in the Parental Engagement in Learning and Schooling: Lessons from research report, including: • continual communication and relationship-building to familiarise parents with the school and the language of education to ensure that they feel comfortable talking to teachers • more frequent and higher-quality interactions focused on connecting parental engagement to learning goals and objectives • communicating and fostering relationships with parents through email, websites, blogs, podcasts and social networking sites to reduce scheduling barriers, reach multiple families at once, share information about school policies and assignments, and provide tips for engaging in learning • using Community or Home-School Liaison Officers to make targeted contact with ‘hard to reach’ or ‘under-served’ families, particularly those with limited literacy skills or from diverse language and cultural backgrounds

• school-based homework centres where children and parents can access assistance with homework or Parent Information Resource Centres, located in the areas in which parents live, that provide services outside the traditional offerings of schools (e.g. mental health services, counselling, conferences, workshops about family involvement) • consistent dialogue from the beginning of the school year between parents and the school • interventions to promote parental engagement such as workshops on school grounds to develop the necessary skills in parents to develop their child’s learning abilities • more recognition of the potential contribution to learning offered by parental behaviours and support in the home • community engagement that incorporates local businesses, community based organisations and support services into engagement strategies, particularly for the benefit of youth who are considered to be at high risk of poor academic performance, and • embedding parental engagement into school strategic or development plans, with ongoing professional development and technical assistance for principals, teachers and other ‘family-facing’ staff in schools. “We’ve been really pleased to see parent engagement come into the national education agenda,” Rowena says. “But now it’s about getting all that talk into the grassroots by supporting schools in ensuring their educational goals support parent engagement and that there is room for collaboration. “Embedding it into school structures, policies and procedures allows for areas to improve in, a sense of accountability, and gives parents a reference point to say ‘That’s how it’s done here – okay, I can get involved and do it this way … or this school really supports what I do and how I want to be with my child on this journey’.”

Resources Family, School and Community Partnerships Ontario Directors Parent Toolkit Engagement/PA%20Downloads/34963_ CODE_Teen_Tool_Kit-ENG_sm.pdf Ontario Ministry of Education involvement/index.html

Parental Engagement in Learning and Schooling: Lessons from research Partners4Learning Qld Parent and Community Engagement Framework

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Prac – a work in progress More emphasis is being placed on prac, or professional experience, as a crucial part of every student teacher’s training. But how does the classroom teacher manage the extra responsibilities on top of their daily duties? IE Journalist Sue Osborne speaks with University of NSW Head of the School of Education Chris Davison.

Professor Davison says prac has evolved in the last 20 years, from being simply a test of how a student teacher can manage a classroom to looking at how well they understand the ethical and legislative requirements of their role, how they manage diversity in the classroom and how they engage collaboratively with other staff at the school. “Instead of the universities just ticking off that someone has attended prac, the supervising teacher becomes a critical component in the equation,” Professor Davison says. “The mentor and the school community itself are given a lot more responsibility for making judgements about a student teacher’s capacity to meet standards.” She says universities need to see schools as equal partners in the process and support mentors to have “much more sustained and reflective conversations” with their student teacher. Making the mentor teacher a fully collaborative partner is still a work in progress. The standards of professional experience can be variable, both in terms of what is offered by schools and the support given to schools by universities. Professor Davison says some schools are already doing it well, offering structured programs and providing their mentor teachers with training and helping them utilise online packages now available, such as the AITSL modules for mentors. At the other end of the spectrum, a student teacher can turn up to a school to find their mentor teacher not expecting them, and feel like they are intruding on busy and reluctant teachers. “It’s variable at the university end as well, Professor Davison says. “Here at NSW it is part of the academic’s workload to support schools. Each staff member is allocated a cluster of schools to work with which suit their research areas. “We run professional learning for the school. I know all the teaching staff in my cluster and I will go out immediately if there’s a problem with a student teacher. I have my own cup in the staffroom at some schools. That’s the kind of relationship universities need to have with schools to build up effective professional support for teachers. “Schools should be able to say ‘no’ to a student teacher if they don’t feel the university is providing the required support.” Professor Davison says the pay offered to mentor teachers hasn’t changed in 10 years, and in NSW at least the Government is looking at other ways to reward teachers, such as professional recognition.

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A joint working party supported by the NSW Institute of Teachers, including university, teacher and union representation, has been working to produce more consistency across universities in terms of expectations of mentor teachers. A range of documentation has been produced for NSW which will provide teachers with reports and other forms and resources to make it easier to assess student teachers more consistently. The role of principals, teachers, student teachers and university staff has been clarified. Work on a framework of common expectations between universities and schools is also being undertaken, as part of the recommendations of the NSW Government document Great Teaching, Inspired Learning. “There’s a lot of work happening in this space and if it’s completed successfully it should make it very clear what is expected of the mentor teacher in terms of work allocation. “This should also make for a clearer discussion of what rewards should be available for supervising teachers, other than the intrinsic rewards of sharing your hard-won knowledge and skills with the next generation of teachers.”

A Teacher’s perspective Oxford Falls Grammar School Primary Teacher Karen Rose has 15 years experience in the classroom and she believes the practicum in its current form is dissuading many teachers from putting their hands up to be supervising teachers, due to the extra workload. “I take a prac teacher each year and

Teaching and learning

You have to spend time every day giving feedback and guidance and ensuring the student teacher is ready for the next day.

Many preservice teachers are extremely competent in the use of IT as a collaborative learning tool and this can be a valuable learning experience for other staff.

I have to say, it is a very time consuming experience, especially in the first few days,” Karen says. “Orientating them to the school, going through documentation, explaining things, meeting and setting them up for lessons is massively time consuming and usually takes up all your relief-from-face-to-face-teaching time and time after school. “You have to spend time every day giving feedback and guidance and ensuring the student teacher is ready for the next day. “I do it because I am an older teacher and feel I can offer my experience. I want to give back to what has been a most rewarding career for me, so the money is secondary. “However, if the remuneration was greater, then perhaps there would be greater uptake. I do hear anecdotally that some students struggle to get placements.   “Universities obviously need greater funding. My student is going to be with me all term, so what I am paid will be greater than what they receive, which for 50 days is $1075.”

A Principal’s perspective Catherine McAuley Westmead Sydney Principal Margery Jackman believes accepting pre-service teachers in a secondary school has a number of benefits, but the extra workload it places on teachers needs to be addressed, if schools are to continue to be part of teacher education. “Pre-service teachers who have knowledge of the latest research and scholarship in their subject areas bring freshness and a new perspective in the staffroom. “Many pre-service teachers are extremely competent in the use of IT as a collaborative

learning tool and this can be a valuable learning experience for other staff. “Many pre-service teachers volunteer to assist with a number of extra curricula activities, working beside staff who often have a long history of generous service in these areas. Their assistance is a support to those staff and often a source of inspiration to students. “For experienced teachers, the opportunity to work with a pre-service teacher enables them to address some of the mentoring criteria, required to reach higher levels of accomplishment. I think this will become more and more important as increasing numbers of teachers address these levels of accomplishment, through the Institute of Teachers. “The presence of pre-service teachers also gives a principal an opportunity to observe the pre-service teacher with a view to upcoming employment prospects. This can be a very valuable aspect of both ongoing and casual staffing, especially since some pre-service teachers spend long periods in the school, enabling a principal to form a realistic picture of the gifts they might bring to the community. “However, it remains true that, despite benefits to both the supervising teacher and the school as a whole, acceptance of a supervisory role involves a lot of extra work for the teacher. “One of the challenges in accepting preservice teachers is that there appears to be inadequate quality control on the part of the universities. “Some pre-service teachers are enthusiastic and competent, and the rewards of working with them are considerable and justify all the hard work involved. Others seem unprepared in their content areas and/or their understanding of what it means to be part of the teaching profession. “This makes a big difference to the workload of the supervising teacher who does not know in advance how competent the person is that she/he will be supervising. “Finally, the issue of appropriate financial remuneration for supervising teachers needs to be addressed. Most schools cannot make timetable adjustments to make more time available and therefore it is necessary that appropriate financial remuneration be offered to teachers who take on this work, so vital to the future of the teaching profession.”

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The art of education Embedding quality literature, drama, dance, and music experiences across the curriculum could re-engage students’ approaches to learning, University of Sydney Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts Robyn Ewing says. She tells IE Journalist Tara de Boehmler how arts can help students cope with the challenges of the 21st century.

What we’re trying to do is open the curriculum up and show students how they might engage with and integrate different art forms across the other areas of the curriculum.

Robyn recently hosted arts workshops at the University of Sydney for pre-service teachers, featuring Australian theatre legends John Bell and Andrew Upton. At the Bell Shakespeare primary school workshop pre-service teachers heard about “The importance of ‘physicalising’ and vocalising the language,” Robyn says. “I thought was a really great way of talking about it.” With the incoming Australian Curriculum mandating an entitlement for K-10 students to have arts experiences, Robyn sees it as a positive step but wants “more than that”. Robyn is among proponents of embedding quality arts experiences across key learning areas, which could see students interpreting historical events using drama, or themes in a literary text through dance or soundscape, for example. “All the different art forms – literature, music, visual arts, drama, dance, media arts – are different ways of making meaning i.e. different kinds of literacies. I think far too often we limit literacy to a very narrow and reductive definition around reading and writing. “What we’re trying to do is open the curriculum up and show students how they might engage with and integrate different art forms across the other areas of the curriculum. For example, musical and visual arts experiences can really help develop understandings about time, space and patterns, which are important in mathematics. In doing this, students can continue to build on their imagination and creativity rather than lose it.” Robyn says the arts have been eroded or largely ignored in the formal curriculum for a long time, or regarded as soft options. Resourcing has also been uneven across schools, as has the provision of professional development for teachers. “We’ve been cut and cut and we really need to re-establish the importance of the arts.” With neurological research supporting the importance of embodying or enacting ideas, concepts and experiences, “doing this can really help people understand something in a much deeper way,” Robyn says. “We’re talking in all of the policy documents about how important it is for children to nurture their creativity, be able to solve problems and be flexible if they’re going to cope with all challenges of the 21st century. Well, all art forms are asking us to look at things in different ways – to open up the way we think about the world and to bring different perspectives to things. They involve us taking risks and shaping things in aesthetic ways. “These kinds of art processes should be used in other areas of the curriculum instead of just relegating them to the extra-curricular or as time-fillers.” This will not be possible without sufficient government funding for arts resources and professional learning, she says. “If we’re

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serious about it we have to get real. “We have to provide the funding for all teachers (not only secondary arts specialists but generalist primary teachers and secondary teachers in other disciplines) to have quality professional development opportunities so they have the knowledge and confidence to implement quality arts experiences. “We also have to provide the kind of resources that schools and early childhood centres need, and opportunities for there to be long-term and meaningful arts partnerships between educators and artists.” Artist-in-residence programs are among popular tactics employed by schools, But Robyn says many of these are only short term and “don’t take the time to mentor the teachers so they can continue these experiences and programs”. “Quality arts experiences are multidimensional and include a commitment to providing the time and resources to engage fully in learning in, through and about the arts with authentic art processes, art works, accomplished artists and excellent performances [with] opportunities for exploration, reflection and dialogue. “We also need to have the funding to do the long-term and systematic evaluation of these arts partnerships because that hopefully will mean everyone will start to understand how the arts can enhance our social and emotional wellbeing.”

Resources • Arts Pops A new curriculum resource by Education Services Australia to support teachers in implementing the incoming Arts curriculum. • Bell Shakespeare Providing education resources as well as professional learning for teachers. • The School Drama program A partnership between Sydney Theatre Company and the University of Sydney to help develop primary teachers confidence and expertise in drama with literature to improve literacy outcomes. community/education/primary/school drama.aspx • Sydney Story Factory The centre aims to nurture children’s creativity through helping them develop their creative writing. • The Song Room Bringing music to children in disadvantaged schools and upskilling teachers. Further reading Ewing R 2010, The Arts and Australian Education: Realising Potential. Australian Council of Educational Research: Melbourne. Gibson R & Ewing R 2011, Transforming the Curriculum through the Arts. Palgrave Macmillan: Melbourne.

Teaching and learning

The Bella Room The Bella Room, a multi-sensory artwork at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney has been specifically designed for students with specific needs, IE Journalist Sue Osborne writes. Each year an artist is commissioned to create a work which is tactile and interactive. The Museum runs the free 90- or 60-minute programs where students can tour the gallery, participate in hands-on workshops and visit the Bella Room, an experience that stimulates all their senses. The current artwork, Dance, by Hiromi Tango, incorporates a number of textile sculptures in different colours. Each sculpture has essential oils on it: the purple one has lavender for instance. Each sculpture has an iPod touch attached to it, which can be used to create colourful patterns, and parts of the sculpture is made up of removable woolen toys and objects. Colour-themed mats, masks and a ‘creative cradle’ means the artwork can be extended to other areas. “The artwork is tailored for each groups’ need. It is designed to break down the

barriers and be inclusive, so anyone can come and touch it and contribute to it,” Bella Program Coordinator Susannah Thorne says. “For some students, touring the galleries may be too confrontational, but the Bella Room breaks down those barriers.” The Museum provides digital excursions of its installations for those unable to visit, and Susannah says it could provide inspiration for schools to create their own interactive artwork. “Hiromi has encouraged everyone to add to this artwork, so everybody feels empowered, and that’s an important part of creating an interactive artwork,” Susannah says. “The feedback we’ve had from teachers is that students come away really energised by this experience, and it’s a creative and learning experience for them.” For information about booking a free Bella Room visit, the digital excursions, and professional development for teachers visit or email independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013|21

I think if you can get more students to reflect on standing in the shoes of others then you have a starting point in tackling racism.

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Sustainable Classrooms

A young woman hurling racial abuse at a sporting match and a string of racist attacks on public transport provoked outrage this year, yet casual and cyber racism are all too often tolerated. New Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane shares with IE Journalist Tara de Boehmler the thinking behind the Racism It Stops With Me campaign and urges schools to get on board.

When a woman on a bus earlier this year yelled at a schoolboy to “get back on your boat” she later insisted she wasn’t a racist. Few people would self-identify as racists, yet over the past five years reported incidences have continued to grow. According to Commissioner Soutphommasane, a significant proportion of Australians still experience racial intolerance and discrimination. “About 20% of Australians report that they’ve experienced some race hate talk – racial insults or slurs. More than 10% of Australians report that they’ve been excluded from the workplace or social activities and 5% have experienced physical attacks because of their race or skin colour or origin.” However, the Commissioner says this is “not to say the nation hasn’t come a long way in combating racism”. “If you take a long view of Australian society it’s proven itself to be an open and accepting place but we can’t be complacent about the challenge. Not every person in Australia receives a fair go based on their race or ethnic origin and this means our country is not reaching its full potential as a nation.” The Commissioner wants to start “a new conversation about racism”, particularly on casual racism and cyber racism where “we face new challenges”. “In one sense the casual racism we see might be a sign of our success as a multicultural society,” he says. “This may sounds paradoxical but if you look at the problem with racism in other countries it often carries a very physical and violent dimension. “In Australia we have rejected racism in many forms. We reject racism where it concerns superiority of races or racial hierarchy. No one’s really going to endorse the idea that some races are superior to others except a small number of extremist groups and no one accepts that it’s alright to have bigotry in public places. “So whenever you see a racist incident in public places, such as on public transport or in sporting arenas, there is universal condemnation.” But the Commissioner says casual “throwaway lines” that cause harm or offence on the basis of race are often defended as part of an irreverent Aussie sense of humour. Complaints about racism may also be decried as “just someone

causing a fuss or being too precious”. “It’s important to remember that casual racism is as much about harm as it is about intention,” he says. “You can cause harm even if you don’t intend to adhere to racial superiority. You don’t have to shout in someone’s face that ‘I believe I am a member of a superior race’ in order to be counted as someone who has engaged in racist behaviour.” For students who may traditionally have found the school ground fraught, increasingly they are also dealing with a “new dimension to intolerance and bigotry” in the form of cyber racism. In combating casual racism and the “serious emerging problem” of cyber racism, the Commissioner says schools and teachers are central to the task. “You need to combat it through education,” he says. “Racism is not something you’re born with. It’s a taught behaviour and civic education in the broader sense is crucial in forming citizens who are accepting and tolerant of others. “At a basic level, the task is about cultivating a sense of empathy among students. Quite often when children call each other names they don’t appreciate just what it feels like to be on the receiving end. “I think if you can get more students to reflect on standing in the shoes of others then you have a starting point in tackling racism.” The Commissioner believes there is “more scope” in ensuring the national curriculum can deal with racism in a constructive way. “I don’t think it’s just a matter of civics and citizenship classes including a module on racism. It’s about integrating the ethics of respect and dignity into other parts of the curriculum, like History or PDHPE for example.” The Human Rights Commission is keen to talk with teachers as it goes about the task of developing more materials linked to the Australian Curriculum and there are already a number of resources on the Racism. It Stops With Me website. Commissioner Soutphommasane encourages schools to sign up to the Racism. It Stops With Me campaign and share their successful anti-racism programs. “It’s a powerful way to demonstrate your commitment to ending racism.” For a range of resources including statistics, case studies, FAQs and tips, visit the Racism It Stops With Me website at www.itstopswithme. independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013|23

The protection of principals an essential principle

A report released earlier this year found that principals are working harder than ever, are more stressed than ever and suffer much higher instances of bullying, harassment and physical violence than the general population, writes IE Journalist Michael Oliver.

School principals are among the nation’s most stressed and bullied professions with almost one in three physically attacked or threatened with violence — according to the Australian Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey, which was released in July this year. The survey of 2,049 principals has uncovered an approaching crisis in school administration as principals struggle to keep up with increasing pressures and risks to their health and safety.

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Author of the survey’s report, Dr Philip Riley, said that the increase in attacks by parents on principals could be attributed to increased testing and reporting requirements placed upon schools nationwide, such as NAPLAN and the MySchool web site. “It sent a not-so-subtle message to parents that educators should be doing more for their children. This, in turn, fuelled offensive behaviour by parents,” he said.


Parents must understand that education is a partnership between home and school and neither party can achieve the best results for the students in isolation.

Speaking at the World Convention of the International Confederation of Principals, Dr Riley described much of the increased accountability requirements of schools and principals as “administrivia”. “Principals and teachers deal daily with parents’ greatest hopes and fears: the lives and potential futures of their children. Literacy and numeracy are now the proxy measures for the whole of school education. “This surveillance culture in schools, when they are tested and ranked, has led to increased bullying from parents who are asking why the school is not performing?” he said. Principal of St Michael’s in Gordonvale in North Queensland, Lea Martin, believes that parents’ beliefs about their school’s and children’s performance might differ markedly from reality. According to Lea, the aggression that comes from a minority of parents is not a result of a lack of effort on the part of the school or principal, but rather from parents who aren’t doing enough to help with their children’s education or those who could be called ‘helicopter’ parents. “I often find that parents who are having difficulty with their children at home — maybe struggling a bit with their own parenting skills — these are the parents who can be upset, as they don’t know how to ‘fix’ the problem, ” said Lea. “A minority of parents will make comments to teachers like ‘I pay school fees. You should be doing this or you should be doing that at school.’ A small number of parents, for example, don’t think that they should have to be doing homework at home with kids. “They think ‘you [the school] are paid for doing this and you should be doing all of that at school.’ This can lead to unrealistic expectations. “Parents must understand that education is a partnership between home and school and neither party can achieve the best results for the students in isolation.” Lea is quick to admit that she is one of the lucky principals and has yet to suffer an act of violence towards her in five years as Principal of St Michael’s. “I have certainly had parents who have attempted to raise their voice at me or speak to me in a way that I didn’t think was appropriate, but I have been able to deal with that in a respectful yet assertive manner. “People genuinely want the best for their kids but sometimes they just don’t know how to go about getting it,” she said. According to the survey, the two leading causes of stress for principals were the sheer

administrative workload and related lack of time to focus on teaching and student learning. “You never leave the job at the gate – and things play on your mind. You worry about issues such as ‘Will I have enough enrolments for next year?’ because your enrolments will affect your funding and your staff numbers. “You worry about individual kids who are struggling with behaviour and ‘How can I support this child?’ There’s a lot of worry in the role.” The extreme workload of principals was reflected in the survey, with 80% of those surveyed working upwards of 46 hours per week; a quarter working more than 61 hours per week; and more than half working in excess of 25 hours per week in school holidays. Lea thinks one of the most frustrating parts of the jobs is that no one sees all this extra work done by principals. “I think every principal I know works too hard and that’s not just the hours that you put in face-to-face at school but that is the hours that you do at home when you are checking emails and ringing 30 relief teachers to try to get a relief teacher for that day. “That is just the role of a principal,” she said. One of the recommendations of the survey was the establishment of a task force, with the power to interview teachers, parents and students to “investigate adult-adult bullying and violence in schools”. However, Lea thinks that the source of the problem is a little larger than what any taskforce can handle. “It’s more of a societal problem,” said Lea. “Some people within our society need to be educated on appropriate ways to communicate and this goes hand-in-hand with issues like domestic violence. It goes together with the violence experienced on our streets on Friday and Saturday nights. All of this is linked with educating people on appropriate ways to behave and how to manage feelings — particularly anger. You can’t have a taskforce on violence in schools without addressing broader issues within the community.” For more information, visit the Principal Health and Wellbeing web site at Principals can participate now in the 2013 survey. The survey will be conducted annually for the next 10 years and is the first long-term independent study to measure the well-being of principals in government, Catholic and independent schools across Australia. independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013|25

Workplace bullying:

prevention The theme of this year’s NSW/ACT IEU Support Staff Conference was Enough is Enough, Bully-proof Yourself. Conference Convener Carolyn Moore said the theme was chosen due to demand, IE Journalist Sue Osborne writes.

is better than cure

Research presented at the Conference found support staff are overrepresented as the victims of bullying. Academics Dan Riley, Deidre Duncan and John Edwards are currently engaged in research part-sponsored by the IEU on bullying in schools. In 2007 they completed the first national online survey into bullying in schools. They surveyed 1000 staff in all types of schools. In 2012 they completed a meta-analysis of research undertaken in 2005, 2007 and 2009 which included 2500 respondents. They found that 95.3% of 2,500 respondents had experienced one or more of the 42 instances of bullying listed. Their research also showed support staff were overrepresented in the top quartile of people who have reported experiencing bullying, and underrepresented in the group highlighted as conducting bullying. Bullying affects everyone, including principals, but the hierarchical structure of schools means support staff are more likely to be the targets, they say. Dr Riley recommends support staff receive professional development and training about bullying. “The most bullied need development, support and confidence,” he says. But Dr Duncan found many employers had little or nothing in their policies about providing training about bullying to staff. The results of Dan Riley, Deidre Duncan and John Edwards’ analysis are published in their book Bullying of Staff in Schools.

What is bullying? Conference keynote speaker Carlo Caponecchia, Senior Lecturer at the University of NSW and an expert in psychological hazards at work, says there are three main criteria for defining bullying: 26|independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013

• the behaviour is repeated • is unreasonable, and • causes a risk to people’s health and safety. Dr Caponecchia says the behaviours do not have to be exactly the same, or they can be repeated with more than one person, but they must indicate a pattern or a systematic approach. Unreasonableness is measured by the ‘man on the bus’ test. Would the average person consider the behaviour unreasonable, if they had the entire context? Risks to health and safety might include sleeplessness, anxiety, headaches and nausea or loss of self-esteem, among others. These risks must be well documented, probably by a visit to the GP where they are linked to the bullying behaviour. “Academics have given up trying to come up with a list of behaviours that constitute bullying,” Dr Caponecchia says. “There are categories of behaviours, such as undue public criticism, social or physical isolation of a person, spreading malicious rumours and gossip and excessive surveillance of someone’s work. “Claiming you are being bullied at work is a major step, so you do need a watertight case. It is good to get an objective person in to help you.” Dr Caponecchia says if harassment, discrimination or violence are part of the bullying it elicits a different response from the employer on legal grounds. The police should deal with violence or threats of violence at work. Dr Caponecchia says the costs to an organisation in terms of added insurance premiums, staff absenteeism, investigation costs and loss of goodwill and reputation can be huge if bullying is not dealt with.

Diverse roles

Cultural change in schools requires leadership and constant monitoring

How to prevent bullying Riley, Duncan and Edwards have produced a document called a National Framework for a Bully-free School Workplace where they make a number of recommendations. Its guiding principles are that all staff have a right to be safe from bullying at school and that this is essential for staff wellbeing. School leadership has to take responsibility for sustaining a safe and bully-free workplace and actively support staff to develop an understanding of safe workplace culture. There should be a whole-of-school, evidence-based approach to eliminating bullying. John Duncan says the take-home message is that organisations must actively work against bullying. “Unless the school is very active in ensuring it has a bully-proof culture, it will have a bullying one by default,” he says. Cultural change in schools requires leadership and constant monitoring. Bullying policies kept in a drawer somewhere are not enough, they say. Schools need an action plan which they put in progress and actively monitor. “There needs to be risk management to address bullying in proactive way. Prevention is better than cure,” Dr Riley says.

“All staff must be aware of their own role.” School should keep a register of all bullying incidences so they know what the situation is in their school. Leaders need a clear vision of a bully-free workplace which they model to staff, and staff must feel confident to report bullying. The researchers found the IEU scored well among staff as an organisation that they could report bullying to and have it dealt with in a confidential manner. Dr Duncan stressed at the Conference that having an outside person, an objective ombudsman, available to the workplace to deal with bullying incidents is crucial. IEU Organisers are available to act in this capacity for all members who feel they have been the subject of bullying. If you are experiencing bullying at school, your IEU Organiser can offer advice and support. For more information visit Reference Riley, D Duncan D & Edwards J, 2012, Bullying of Staff in Schools, ACER

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Empowerment of children key to new child safety curriculum A new curriculum produced by the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, in partnership with the Queensland Department of Education, is empowering children from Prep to Year 9 to protect themselves at home, at school, on the streets and online. IE Journalist Michael Oliver speaks with Daniel’s father Bruce Morcombe, about his hopes for the new program.

In September last year Queensland Minister for Education, Training and Employment John-Paul Langbroek announced the launch of the Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Curriculum. Covering Prep - Year 9, the curriculum’s aim is to “improve students’ knowledge, skills and understanding about personal safety and awareness”. For Bruce Morcombe, the curriculum’s implementation across Queensland marks a milestone in the empowerment and protection of children from sexual abuse. “For several years before it [the child safety curriculum] was announced by the Queensland Government, Denise and I travelled around each of the capital cities across the country meeting up with education ministers, child safety ministers, police commissioners – those sorts of people,” Bruce says. “While most states had programs already available in their curriculum, some states had nothing. The programs that did exist were outdated; using fairly old fashioned terms such as ‘stranger danger’, which are just not terms which should be used anymore as statistically nine out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone that the child knows.” In fact, according to the NSW Child Protection Council, 95% of sexual abuse acts are committed by someone known to the victim, while ABS Statistics report that over 90% of cases occur in private dwellings. “So ‘stranger danger’ wasn’t the right term,” Bruce says. “We were also quite shocked at the mish-mash of different programs that were around. So we thought, let’s formulate something purpose-built for today using the best advice and technology available.” ‘Today’ is the operative word. The produced curriculum covers aspects of child safety online and on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as more typical advice about interactions and scenarios in the physical world. “Technology just changes so fast,” says Bruce. “We made sure the curriculum has the ability to adapt as these new platforms come along. No longer is the computer at home necessarily a desktop in the office. Kids today effectively have a computer in their pocket.” The curriculum does not place sole responsibility on the teacher, but has been developed with a heavy emphasis on parental involvement; a feature Bruce says was vital to the program’s success.

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“It is absolutely critical that parents are involved at every step. “Teachers can only do so much. It is the enforcement and supervision that parents have that makes it work. For instance, if the teaching of the curriculum identifies the privacy settings on a computer that allows kids to know who they are talking to and stay safe, if that is not talked about or scrutinised at home, the whole program becomes a pointless exercise.” The curriculum is split into three phases, Prep - Year 2, Years 3 - 6 and Years 7 - 9, materials for which are now available to all state and non-state schools in Queensland. However, it is up to each school as to when to start teaching the curriculum. In all phases the program is founded on three core messages: Recognise, React and Report. Recognise encourages students to be aware of their surroundings and to identify the warning signs of predatory behaviour. “It is about awareness and understanding what your body is telling you when the situation is not quite right. ‘Why am I sitting on this person’s knee, when I should be sitting next to them on the couch? This isn’t right,’” says Bruce. Teachers in Queensland have access to a wide variety of materials, including interactive group activities, hard copy flash cards, worksheets and safety books to help students differentiate safe and unsafe situations from the earliest age possible. Age-appropriate scenarios are used to explore and discuss situations that children may encounter in the home, school or in the wider environment. React educates children about the choices that may keep them safe or deliver them from danger. “’React’ for the most part means ‘run’.” Bruce says. “We say to kids, if you don’t feel right in the situation you are in then run.” Report encourages children to report unsafe incidents to an adult, and Bruce says that in many ways this is the most important message taught to children. “We teach that ‘reporting’ it is the right thing to do. It is never their fault. We let the kids know that if they do come forward, they will be believed; they will be cared for; they will be looked after.” The curriculum has no intention of scaring kids, or leaving them fearful of the world around them. Part of the message offered is


We were also quite shocked at the mish-mash of different programs that were around.

that most people are, in fact, trustworthy and that is why the ‘Report’ part of the three-pillar message is so important. “The last thing any of us on the working committee wanted was for a child to go home that evening and have a sleepless, restless night with nightmares about predators coming through their window. That is not what the program is about. “The way kids are interfered with is not threatened with a gun, but lured with an offer: ‘Can you help me find my puppy?’ ‘Please, can you assist me with directions?”

‘Can I be your friend?’ We just want to make it clear that statistically it will be the carrot that will be your downfall, not the gun, or a big threatening person.” For more information regarding the Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Curriculum, visit

independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013|29


DisabilityCare Australia

The National Disability Insurance Scheme explained DisabilityCare Australia is the national insurance scheme brought in by the Gillard Government to support people with permanent and significant disability, their families and carers, IEU VicTas Education and Policy Officer Cathy Hickey writes.

The scheme constitutes a different way of funding individualised support for people with a disability. Its stated aim is to provide more choice and control and a lifetime approach to a person’s support needs. Gradually current programs of support will change over to DisabilityCare Australia. If a person is eligible, DisabilityCare Australia is supposed to work with them to: • discuss individual goals and support needs, including equipment and personal support for daily living • develop an individual plan that will help them achieve their goals • consider the supports needed to strengthen family and informal caring arrangements, and • connect/refer them to mainstream services and community supports, including relevant government and community services. Who is eligible? A disability may be attributed to intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairments or a psychiatric condition. A person may be eligible for the scheme if they have a significant permanent disability and: • are under 65 years of age • can’t join in activities or do things without assistive technology, equipment or home modifications, or • usually needs support from other people to join in activities or do things at home or in the community. A person may also meet early intervention requirements if: • they or their child have a permanent disability, or • their child has a developmental delay, and • there is evidence that shows getting early supports will reduce how much help they might need in the future.

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The roll-out Due to the size of the scheme, the previous Government decided to roll out the scheme across Australia in stages. Locations from July 2013: Barwon area of Victoria people aged 0 to 64 Hunter area of NSW people aged 0 to 64 South Australia children aged 0 to 14 Tasmania young people aged 15 to 24 Locations from July 2014: ACT people aged 0 to 74 Barkly region of NT people aged 0 to 64 From July 2016 the scheme will continue to extend to more locations and age groups across Australia. Carer support The scheme is able to focus on carers in individual plans. For example, planners should talk to carers about whether they need assistance to continue the same level of care, what may affect their capacity to continue providing care into the future, whether there are other carers who may also provide support, and the carer’s own life plans and aspirations. For example, as part of an individual plan funding might be provided to carers for training in support techniques or family capacity building, courses to build resilience and networks, counselling, peer support programs and education. To find out whether you, a family member or member of your school community may be eligible, you can: • use My Access Checker • phone 1800 800 100 For more information visit

Letter to the editor|Diary

Diary IEU VicTas Education Support Staff Seminar Managing Student Behaviour 12 November 1-4pm, Melbourne Education support staff have regular interactions with students. This contact can occur in a range of settings and at times it can be challenging. In this seminar, Jo Lange will explore student behaviour and focus on practical, everyday strategies to set up and continue productive work and social atmosphere in the classroom. Details: The Mind and Its Potential 14-15 November AMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney This Conference explores how to apply the new science of the mind to learning, creativity and personal development. Learn from 30+ acclaimed experts from Australia and around the world. Keynote speakers is Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, the author of The Woman who Changed her Brain. Details: Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) and UNESCO Call for Interest:
Global Forum on Media and Gender ATOM is a key partner with UNESCO in the Global Forum on Media and Gender, which is taking place 2–4 December in Bangkok. ATOM is looking for people interested in participating in online forums and regional caucuses around the topic of media and gender. If you are part of an organisation involved in gender and media-related activities – for example an NGO, an association, a network, a training/academic institution, a research institution, a regulatory body or a public or private entity – then this call is relevant to you. If you are interested in attending the forum, participating online or simply wish to submit a general expression of interest, please email Roger Dunscombe at

Letter to the editor

Students need specialised support After reading your special needs feature in IE Issue 2/Vol 43/2013, I feel compelled to respond with regard to my situation. I am the mother of a son (now in his late teens) who has an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). I am also an experienced teacher who, until early this year, was working part-time in learning support at a small school in a low socioeconomic area. In 2010 I was awarded a scholarship by the sector in which I was employed to study for a Graduate Certificate in Inclusive Education. As mentioned in the article by the NSW/ACT IEU Deputy Secretary, Gloria Taylor, there has been a substantial shift during my 20 plus years of teaching in the education of children with disabilities from special schools to mainstream schools and some employers are opting for ‘watered down’ or cheaper solutions. Autism is a disability that requires educators to have specialist skills and who are able to think ‘outside the box’ and start their planning by looking closely at the children they are teaching. Since I first applied for the scholarship, the school had a change in administration. The role that I was then given meant that I no longer had the opportunity to work specifically with the children with autism and it

was suggested to me that I could be replaced by two school officers. At present I am not employed in education. Many classroom teachers feel overwhelmed when faced with the challenges of students with disabilities, particularly those with autism. I have in the past (and continue to do so voluntarily) supported many classroom teachers with strategies and adjustments to make in their classrooms. I am still passionate about making school an easier and happier place for children with disabilities and, thus, I am still facilitating workshops for parents and carers of children with autism. It is my experience that there are quite a number of parents who are disillusioned with schools across all sectors and feel that their child/children’s needs aren’t being met. Governments and employing authorities need to have a good look at how individual schools are spending their money, especially with regard to employing experienced support teachers rather than opting for the cheaper approach of inexperienced school officers. This would help to achieve better outcomes for people with ASD, not only in schools but in the workplace and the wider community. Name supplied (abridged) independent education| issue 3|Vol 43|2013|31

Goal posts changing Kylie Andrew, Psychologist, Stella Maris College, Sydney

How should we tackle drugs in schools?

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Adolescence is a time of change and discovery and, despite our young people being a highly informed generation, they will still experiment with legal and illegal substances. Traditionally schools have been the main source of drug education, often employing community groups and professional speakers to address underage drinking and drug use. Unfortunately though, the goal posts have now well and truly shifted, and we need to look more closely at the legal and illegal substances that young people are using, and the ways they are obtaining them. Social media sites such as Twitter are being used to promote alcoholic products to young people, while a recent National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre study revealed that there has been an alarming increase in the online selling of ecstasy, cannabis and MDMA. ‘Legal highs’ (synthetic drugs which mimic the effect of ecstasy, cannabis and cocaine) and herbal substances are easy to obtain but can be extremely toxic. Of further concern is that these substances give the misleading impression that they are safe because they are sold over the counter or online. The high consumption of caffeine and energy drinks by young people is also raising concern among medical professionals. Excessive use can cause insomnia, heart problems and anxiety, and these side effects may be magnified when used with other substances. As educators, we need to remain informed about current trends and keep parents up to date with the changes. If a young person wants to get hold of a drug, they have plenty of options in terms of both access and choice. Knowing how they are accessing these substances will empower parents, but this alone is not enough. Government bodies also need to step in and close the legal loopholes that allow such easy access to illegal drugs online, and the legal selling of toxic substances.

Government bodies need to step in and close the legal loopholes that allow such easy access to illegal drugs online, and the legal selling of toxic substances.

Talking point

Shock tactics Jake Sciberras, Year 10 Student, Waverley College, Sydney Drugs in schools, like drugs in sport, should be non-existant. All schools have a policy that they need to follow on drug use and it’s part of the National Curriculum. Currently schools (including my school) have been doing very well in dealing with drug issues. I have never seen any evidence of drug use at school. Education is a major part of stopping drug use in schools. The discussions I have had with teachers have opened my eyes and made me aware of drug use. Guest speakers definitely aid in highlighting the dangers of drugs, especially when they have had experience of dealing with them personally. Showing real life experiences of drug use really hits home with students. Some teenagers will take drugs due to peer pressure, friends or family. Their

reasons are the same reasons sport players use or ‘accidently’ use drugs. Sport is a huge influence on boys so you can see why they might think it’s alright. It’s a chance they are willing to take to follow in their role model’s or hero’s footsteps. Schools have to keep changing to help students make the right choices in life. My own education on drug use has sometimes shocked and upset me. It’s been confronting, but it has helped me learn about the risks of drug taking as well.

Sport is a huge influence on boys so you can see why they might think it’s alright. It’s a chance they are willing to take to follow in their hero’s footsteps.

Random testing Tony Byrne, Counsellor, Assumption College, Kilmore, Victoria A few months ago an article in The Age newspaper reported that Assumption College in Kilmore was going to randomly tests students for drugs, rather like the commonly seen police road blocks. Images of flashing blue lights in the school corridors came to my mind with worried and bemused staff and students looking on as students (and potentially staff) got busted. The report was actually inaccurate as there was no decision or policy to even implement this approach by the school authorities. The response from staff, parents and students however was mixed and interesting, ranging in attitudes from ‘it was about time the powers to be got tough’ to ‘a blatant breeching of civil liberties’. How we tackle drugs in schools is complex because a definition of drug covers anything from coffee to alcohol or Panadol to LSD. Then there is the issue of students taking illegal drugs at school and partaking outside. A student who is high or drunk at school or caught smoking can expect to follow a predictable pathway: suspension, meeting with parents,

counselling and drug education programs at various grade levels. The reason why students take drugs is varied and a ‘one hat fits all’ solution to a complex problem is too simplistic an approach. Peer pressure of course is a huge influence. Other factors include family acceptability of drug use, usage to numb emotional problems, to increase self-esteem or to simply enjoy the effects of drugs, need to be taken into account. I rather like the long-term approach taken around the anti-smoking campaign. It takes years to change attitudes but a determined approach not to give up is essential. Political parties have only just announced a break with sponsorship from companies responsible for millions of early deaths. A mixture of educational content, informative health warnings, horrifying images, talks from the terminally ill, sporting heroes and the like, slogans, drug free zones, stressing personal responsibility, humanity, humour and honesty all add to the jigsaw approach to tackling drugs in school.

Political parties have only just announced a break with sponsorship from companies responsible for millions of early deaths.

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Superheroes tread fine line What is it about the superhero in the cinema that appeals to us so significantly? Could it be that having heightened powers are something we would all love to have, especially the ability to triumph over evil, injustice or major problems? The fantasy/superhero genre in cinema certainly feeds off this psychology, and many examples exist where the superhero, facing almost insurmountable challenges, rises to the occasion and triumphs over adversity.

Superman in his many incarnations over 70 years exemplifies this philosophy. Escaping an imploding planet, then landing on Earth, he demonstrates super powers that ordinary earthlings do not possess. Fighting crime, evil and conflict is the basis of his existence, while assimilating as a journalist to hide his true identity. The plentiful incarnations of the story indicate the pervasive interest in that character, and the desire to right wrongs and triumph over evil. The recent Man of Steel (2013) revisits the traditional comic book story and adds a layer of darkness to the proceedings, in a similar vein to The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), which are re-imaginings of the often filmed Batman stories. Once these films were clearly delineated good vs evil stories, but contemporary filmmakers now add shades of grey to the narrative to reflect our more complex society. Kickass (2010) and Kickass 2 (2013), continue this darker themed approach to superheroes by creating teenage characters with special powers to fight crime and evil adults. In particular, the creation of a teenage girl taught by her father to have special powers of violent retribution, demonstrates the complex social forces that conspire to create such a challenging character. Indeed, the various Spiderman portrayals similarly indicate the bond between parent and child, and the way that is transformed into a super creation that seeks revenge on all evil-doers. Cinematic history is littered with justified revenge and familial heritage, morphing into the key sub-genre of fantasy, superhero creations that evoke a strong response in the audience. The X-Men series of films, most lately demonstrated by the film Wolverine (2013), compound this combination of superhero and darker forces, to the point that there is

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now a much finer line between good and evil and the tactics used to eliminate the evil. It is also interesting to note that most of these superhero films originate in the USA, a Hollywood confection. This is also symptomatic of a societal focus, where the American Civil War symbolised a country in perpetual conflict. On a lighter note, there are two interesting Australian films that deal with the superhero theme. Philippe Mora’s underrated satire The Return of Captain Invincible (1983), with echoes to a ‘fallen’ Captain America hero, has the eponymous character hiding in Australia avoiding political conflict. In Griff the Invisible (2010), Leon Ford’s film about a shy man by day and superhero by night, the psychological dual characterisations play with the typical genre expectations of the narrative. The Incredibles (2004) is a delightfully amusing animated send-up of the genre by depicting a whole family of superheroes fighting crime, while The Powerpuff Girls (2002) is a rare female focused animation on a group of young crimefighters. We also must not forget the ultimate sendup of the genre: The Superhero Movie (2008), which uses the Spiderman story as a basis to wreak havoc on all the conventions used in typical superhero movies. Peter Krausz is the former Chair of the Australian Film Critics Association, film critic, radio broadcaster, film festival consultant and film journalist. Any feedback is welcome:

Ie #3 2013  

High stakes testing in Australian education

Ie #3 2013  

High stakes testing in Australian education